In recent weeks, Michael Cohen has found himself in the news for his intimate connection with the hush money payment made by Donald Trump to adult film star Stormy Daniels (given name Stephanie Clifford). But Daniels' lawyer recently circulated information he'd uncovered on just how many companies have been paying Michael Cohen since Trump's election, and how much the New York lawyer has made off his proximity to the president. It's a lot.
AT&T is likely the most recognizable name on the list of entities who transferred cash to Cohen following Trump's election win. CNN reports that AT&T came clean on Tuesday and admitted it paid Essential Consultants, the same company through which Cohen compensated Daniels for her silence about an alleged affair between herself and Trump. A source close to the matter told CNN that AT&T paid Cohen $600,000 between 2017 and 2018 for what the company said was "insights into understanding" the administration of Trump. ("AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake," the company's CEO said Friday.)
But that wasn't the biggest payment Cohen received. Pharmaceutical company Novartis shelled out $1.2 million to Trump's personal lawyer for the benefit of his consultation on health care policy. According to CNBC, Novartis said they believed Cohen "could advise the company as to how the Trump administration might approach certain U.S. health-care policy matters, including the Affordable Care Act."
Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) also hired Cohen, paying him $150,000 for a month-long contract. Shawn Boburg and Aaron C. Davis report at The Washington Post that KAI was looking for Cohen’s input on “Cost Accounting Standards,” advice that could help the company better its bid for American defense contracts. Boburg and Davis point out Cohen seems an “unusual choice” for such specific consulting work, given his background as a personal injury lawyer and former taxicab operator. It’s an observation that could be applied to many of the deals Cohen secured for himself following Trump’s election.
The payments to Essential Consultants from AT&T, Novartis, and KAI were first discovered by Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ attorney in her case against Trump. The revelations sparked an investigation by the Treasury Department's inspector general into whether or not Cohen's private banking details were illegally leaked. But regardless of how the payments came to light, all indications suggest the records of payment to Cohen are accurate.
One of the clearest signs the Cohen cash haul is real comes from the apologies issued by the companies cited in Avenatti's document. AT&T's chief executive, Randall L. Stephenson, described the company's decision to hire Cohen as a "big mistake."
The CEO of Novartis sang a similar tune. On Thursday, Forbes reports that CEO Vas Narasimhan admitted the pharmaceutical company "made a mistake" in seeking Cohen's counsel.
As The Daily Beast's Sam Stein observed on Twitter, "Everyone who hired Michael Cohen admits they made a serious mistake once it got out that they hired Michael Cohen."
And evidence suggests Cohen knew exactly what he was doing. An associate of Trump's personal lawyer and self-described "fixer" told The Washington Post that Cohen bragged, "I'm crushing it," in the summer of 2017. According to the Post report, "Cohen pitched potential clients on his close association with Trump, noting that he still was the president’s lawyer." It seems that pitch paid off big in dollars.
But it may not prove such a savvy move in the long run. Cohen is currently under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. In fact, Mueller has already been in contact with Novartis and AT&T over their financial ties to Cohen. Trump's attorney has also seen his home and office raided by the FBI.
And it's unclear that the extent of Cohen's financial dealings have been fully revealed. Rosalind Helderman of The Washington Post points out that the payments Trump made to Cohen — which are known now to have occurred — were "not reflected" in Avenatti's document. So, while it looks like Cohen cashed in near $2 million of consulting fees following Trump's election, the real number may actually be higher.